Friday, August 25, 2017

Stranger Things revisited

We all know and love the Netflix series "Stranger Things" with its intoxicating mix of 80s synth nostalgia and hip 21st Century self-irony. For Gen Xers its a glimpse into our childhoods; the freshness of Star Wars, Atari and New Wave music. It transports us back to those darken cinemas when horror movies could still scare us without copious amounts of blood and sex. The Duffer Brothers created "The Goonies" if it were directed by "John Carpenter". But ultimately Stranger Things tells us of a time we are probably misremembering. With the uncertainty and jiggery pokery of the current presidential administration, we all long for the simpler time of what we are now thinking the 80s were. The show is set in 1983 in a small Indiana town. Our stalwart crew of 5 friends were all born in the early 1970s. That would put them around their mid-to-late forties now. Here's my guess of what happened to the Boys and El in those 30 intervening years.

Will Byers, the boy whose disappearance kicked off a phenomenon realized during high school that it wasn't Jennifer Hayes--the girl crying at his funeral--that he wanted but his best friend Mike. He suppressed his feelings during college, even joining an ultra-religious cult. He tried his hand at being a Christian minister, finally coming to turns that he was gay. He left his wife and children in Hawkins and is not the manager of a graphic design business living with his 28 year-old Honduran boyfriend named Javier in Riverside, CA.

Mike Wheeler, the leader of the group, remained friends with the Boys until attended Notre Dame where he majored in accounting. He briefly lived in Chicago with El but had to return to Indiana when his father died of a massive heart attack. Eleven kept going back to the Upside Down so he ended up marrying Jennifer Hayes--the girl crying at Will's funeral--before they moved to Arizona and buying a lawn care/ beauty salon business in strip mall in Scottsdale. They named their oldest daughter, Twelve.

Lucas Sinclair, the brains and soul of the group graduated Hawkins High School, where he became class president, before going to Northwestern University where he majored in journalism and communication. After college he briefly came back to Hawkins where he ran as a Republican for the Indiana state senate. He languished on the back bench for a few years when he realized he was too ambitious for a small Midwestern town. He left Indiana and now owns a media company and frequently appears on cable news as a Never Trumper GOP strategist. He lives in Dallas with his wife who is a local newscaster.

Dustin Henderson, the funniest member of the group, never really hit his "stride" or at least that what he tells people where he works. He is the co-owner of a comic books store/ coffee house. He still lives in the same house he grew up in. He emails Lucas, Mike and Will regularly but they rarely email him back. He's the only one who is still in contact with El and he tries to go see Mr. Clarke at the SpringCare Nursing home but sometimes his 1997 Toyota Corolla breaks-down. Every Friday night he hosts a classic Sci-Fi party at the Hawkins Cinema.

Eleven finally found her birth mother in the neighboring town. Their relationship was turbulent and thankfully short. Plus her aunt kept wanting El to give her money for cigarettes and drugs. She lived with Mike for a while when he was in Chicago but she could never adjust to normalcy. She joined the Peace Corp and travelled the world helping people. The last anyone heard of her she had invited a sustainable sweet potato--the proceeds from which she bought stock in Kellogg.

Nancy Wheeler, Mike's precocious sister, left Hawkins and never looked back. She attended NYU--along with Jonathan Byers. They hooked up once after a drunken party at friend's apartment on St. Mark's but nothing came of it. She went to graduate school in Boston where she studied Political Science. She interned in the Clinton White House. She kept telling Monica Lewinsky, "Don't get caught with the monster, Barb." but the intern just looked at her with distain. Afterward she went to work in various organizations until she was tapped to run the New York Office of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. She and Steve Harrington still see each other whenever they have time.

Jonathan Byers
, Will's brother, got his lifelong wish and attended NYU and studied photography. He never went back to Indiana to live. In 2016 he won a Pulitzer Prize for his coffee table book entitled "Hillbilly Hawkins: A Town and Country in Crisis". The book was about the poor downtrodden white families of Hawkins that had succumbed to drugs when the government shuttered Hawkins National Laboratory.

Steven Harrington went to the University of Indiana on a lacrosse scholarship. He flunked out and ended up going to East Indiana State where he became a computer programmer. He met his future wife there and they both moved to Indianapolis and started a company that helped corporation protect their data from cyber-attacks. He was fired after one of his major clients, the DNC, was hacked in 2016. His son Kenny, who doesn't talk a lot, also attended East Indie with a kid named Axl Heck.

Joyce Byers remained in Hawkins. She went on to manage Melvin's General Store when Donald got too old. There were always rumors that she and Hop had an affair but she and the guy who ran the local Hawkins Radio Shack ended up in a common law marriage. She quietly tells friends that Will "turned gay" after the tragic events of that week in November, 1983.

Karen Wheeler, Mike's mom was devastated after her husband died of a massive heart attack. She didn't love him but who else was going to take care of her and her young daughter. To get her mind off things she went on a cruise where she met a former Indianapolis Colt running back who owned a string of car dealerships across the Midwest. They were married before the cruise was over and she moved with him to a mansion in Indianapolis. Her daughter Holly, grew up and is the communications director of a mega-church near Cleveland and spends all her time spreading the word of God and trolling liberals with pro-Trump propaganda on social media.

Chief Hopper stayed on as the local sheriff. He successfully kept the town safe. He never seemed to find love and went through years of unsuccessful relationships with a succession of librarians. He finally retired from the force and pretty much stays in his trailer. He's sometimes seen in town where people whisper that he sits in front of his TV watching Fox News and screaming about the Deep State. They say he refuses to use any electronic devices.

Tommy H got Carol pregnant. They moved into the trailer park off Mirkwood and had a stormy relationship. They appeared on one of the earliest episodes of Maury for a paternity test. Tommy got caught selling cocaine and went to prison. He was killed in a mysterious hit a run by 3 guys in a van--one of them was identified as looking like Tom Hanks' son. Carol works at the lunch lady as Hawkins High. The kids love it when she comes to work drunk and curses them all out. They post pics of her all the time on Snapchat.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What if hate was on the other foot?

Let's have a thought experiment, shall we? I want you to sit back. Close your eyes. Now picture a beautiful southern city, like, Charlotte. Now imagine if you will a warm summer evening. Now in a part of Charlotte I want you to pretend you see an old decrepit building.  The building is at least 100 years old and it has Arabic writing on the side of it. It has four towers. I'm sure you are picturing a mosque. That's good.

Now imagine this mosque has been dedicated to radical Islamic teachings. The adherents of the teachings of this mosque carried out all sorts of atrocities on Americans for decades. Murders, beheadings, lynchings. All sorts of horrible things. Now, if you can, imagine that the city council of Charlotte has decided to demolish this mosque and build a park in the name of peace in its place. So one Friday night a few young people go to this mosque to hold up signs that read "Love over Hate" and "Tear down this symbol of hate". A short distance from this mosque is a church filled with people holding an interfaith service. Now see a couple hundred Radical Jihadist start marching down the streets of Charlotte carrying torches. Picture in your mind those Jihadist surrounding the church. Chanting "Death to America" and "Die Infidel Die". Image them attack the small number of peaceful demonstrators sending one man to the hospital in critical condition from being punched in the throat by a torch. The man later suffers a stroke because of the severity of his injuries.

Imagine the next day, these Jihadist--who have decided to go by the term Alt-Religious--have a "legal permit" to show up at the mosque to protest its removal. They arrive bearing symbols of hate. They carry weapons. They bring with them riot gear like shields, helmets and batons. Now think for a moment a group of anti-terrorist protesters show up. They too are angry. They claim the Jihadist have no place in America. So a few fights break out. Soon the Jihadist start beating people with their bats. A young man suffers a broken hand and has to get multiple-stitches in his head. The Jihadist grow more violent and start throwing bottles filled with urine and full cans of soda at the anti-terrrorist protesters. The Jihadist target the Christians ministers who have shown up in solidarity with the anti-terrorist protesters.

As the tension mounts a 20 year-old radicalized Jihadist jumps in his car and plows into a crowd of anti-terrorist protesters. Bloodied and broken bodies fly everywhere. In the aftermath of the attack, one young woman is dead, 19 injured and 5 remain in the hospital with critical injuries. The country is shocked by the level of violence. People want answers. How can these violent Jihadist, who have a history of abhorrent attacks on Americans, be allowed to behave in such a reprehensible manner. We all love to exercise our free speech rights but these Jihadist encourage violence and have shown no remorse over the death of the young woman killed in the terror attack. Actually these Jihadist are vocal with their praise of the murder and even send the murdered woman's mother death threats.

Now imagine the president of the United States holding a press conference. Now imagine during that press conference the president of the United States says the following:

"I watched those much more closely than you people watched it, and you had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent."

"What about the anti-terrorist protesters that came charging at, as you say, the Alt-Religious, do they have any semblance of guilt? What about the fact that they have charging with clubs in their hands, swinging clubs. Do they have any problem? I think they do."

"I own a house in Charlotte, does anyone know I own a house in Charlotte? It’s in Charlotte, you’ll see. It is the winery. I mean I know a lot about Charlotte."

"George Washington was very religious. Was George a religious person? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statues to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson?"

Then he goes on twitter and calls the removal of the mosque "foolish". He says, "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and mosques."

How would that make you feel as an American? Now you can open your eyes. Rerun that story in your mind and replace Jihadist with White Supremacist and tell me if you would feel the same way.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The CIA ain't got nothin' on a woman with a plan

In the movie "Two Can Play That Game", Anthony Anderson tells his friend, Morris Chestnut, that "The CIA ain't got nothin' on a woman with a plan." As I was watching this movie last night, I wondered how Anderson and Chestnut ended up leading broadcast network shows and Fox ended up with cheap strippers on reality TV--but I digress--it put our current situation with the Russia Scandal and Donald into perspective.

I'm noticing an upswing in chatter from Republicans and Donald supporters trying to make this Obama wiretap thing happen. I think many people are repeating rhetoric and political spin they hear on FOX News or Mark Levine's radio show but they don't really understand it. So I'm going to break it down to you. One way will use spy jargon and specific technical terms and the second way will be in easy to understand Shanté Smith, Vivica Fox's character from the movie,

If you don't want the long-winded explanation skip right to Number 2.

Number 1: What really happened

The US, as with all countries, gathers intelligence on foreign actors in their country. This means if you are a diplomat, world leader, spy, banker, high ranking official--be you from a friendly state or hostile state--your communication is going to be monitored when you are in the US. This has been done for decades. It's a matter of course. When high ranking US officials go abroad they too are monitored or surveilled. It's the secret no one tells you about.

Once that data is collected and compiled it is given to the NSA, CIA, FBI, DNI or some other "Deep State" agency. Those reports, transcripts and other media are then given to the designated stakeholders, like department heads, cabinet members, congress members, the president, et al. In those reports if an American is "incidentally" (accidentally) monitored their names are redacted from the final reports. Apparently in the case of Mike Flynn, former NSA director and others, those names have now been "unamsked" or revealed. Members of Donald's campaign and transition team came into contact with Russian officials/ diplomats/ spies, etc. Those communications were monitored--because ALL communications with Russians are monitored--and some one inside the intelligence apparatus has leaked those names to member of the press. Republicans are trying to make a case that Pres Obama purposely, and by their inference, sinisterly listened in on a political enemy. The fact that all of this was done routinely without the president's consent or knowledge means nothing to them.

Number 2: The Shanté Smith Breakdown

Your cousin KeKe works at T-Mobile in their internal audit department. She has access to all T-Mobile customer's records. She's always suspected your boyfriend wasn't faithful. One day on her lunch break she saw your boyfriend out cheating on you. When she got back to work she pulled his text messages and voicemails and called you up and told you your man was cheating and she showed you the truth. Yes, she broke the law by revealing his personal information. And yes your boyfriend got mad and tried to convince you that KeKe was wrong and that his was the victim. But at the end of the day, he was cheating on you.

So in this scenario, you are America, Donald has been cheating of you with the Russians and the intelligence community is KeKe.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Mexican students attack Americans over Boarder Wall

Daryl T Sturgis
21 MAR 2017 AT 16:45 ET

Lake Winnebago, WI

Each year hundreds of thousands of Mexican college spring breakers head north of the boarder for fun in the dim light and cold lakes of America's Rust Belt. But this year things got ugly when locals slammed the Mexican tourists for their bad behaviour and down right bigoted attitude toward their host country.

As the town's newspaper, the Lake Winnebago Cruiser, reported, the rowdy kids had just finished a tour on a boat in the shape of a giant bratwurst. The captain of the fun boat, who spoke anonymously, said, "The Mexican kids come up here every year and do the same thing. They overrun the town. We only tolerate it because it keeps us afloat during the office season."

This particular day his boat was packed with kids. Witnesses said that once the tour was over it was "pretty clear" the kids were drunk on Pabst Blue Ribbon and cheese curds. It seemed the incident started when a few Americans riding the boat waved American flags. Soon the Mexicans teens were jeering and chanting "Build your wall we don't want your douchey kids anyway!"

A local woman who works as a housekeeper at the inn, who also refused to giver her name said, "These are some bad hombres. They've been coming here for years." She also commented that her husband who works in a neighboring town said the kids love to eat their steaks well-done with lots of ketchup on them. Some Americans riding the giant bratwurst tried to to express their annoyance but the lushed-up kids just chanted "E.U.M.! E.U.M.! E.U.M.!" Then one student shouted "Get them outta here!"

A couple who had moved from Colorado Springs, CO years ago, Scottette and Tony Walker, told reporters they usually travel to Ontario this time of year to avoid the obnoxious tourist but found they had to return home because they were not allowed to cross the Canadian border. They said they just found out P.M. Justin Trudeau was building a wall between the US and Canada to make Canada great again. They did say it was a great wall and that they didn't mind that America was paying for it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Allies of Evil

The Allies of Evil

When Steve Bannon, chief white house strategist, spoke at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) earlier this year, he said he wanted the "...deconstruction of the administrative state."Most listeners, both liberal and conservative, interpreted that statement in different ways. For conservatives who have longed for the smaller government Ronald Reagan promised them, these words were the revelation they had been waiting for since Ronnie and Nancy flew off into sunset in 1989. Smaller government is the GOP Holy Grail the Bushes (I and II) couldn't give them. Liberals assumed Bannon, through his cipher, Donald Trump, meant he lusted for the destruction of the U.S. government for no other reason than to see it burn. But the truth is neither that rudimentary or cloistered; and once you realize what is at stake, all other answers seem naive.

Steven Bannon doesn't want to deconstruct all of the administrative state. He just wants to get rid of the parts he doesn't like and strengthen the parts that give him, and his ethno-nationalistic cronies, ultimate and complete power. Every since the South fell after the Civil War, many southern states have been pushing for States Rights—and make no mistake it may be centered in the south but many other states use it. The concept of States Rights has traditionally been used as a stand-in for state sanctioned discrimination. States Rights were used to keep the African slave in bondage. States Rights were used to keep Black Americans whipped under the lash of Jim Crow. States Rights are now being used to officially discriminate against trans-Americans. States Rights was a favorite of segregationist Democrats before it became the tool of modern Republicans. Since the late 1960s, the GOP has championed States Rights on everything from school integration, to voting rights, to marriage equality. Think of Ronald Reagan's thinly veiled racist speech he made during his 1980 presidential campaign where he introduced the Welfare Queen into modern political nomenclature. So it is not surprising that Bannon is also a champion of States Rights.

Put in simple terms, Bannon wants to ensure that groups he has deemed enemies of the state have no way of fighting the oppression he plans to bring to bear on them. The way he accomplishes this is two-fold:

First he must get rid of the regulatory agencies that help oppressed groups. So he crops budgets of Departments like Education and HHS (Health and Human Services). He gets rid of programs like Headstart, pre- and after-school, school lunch, et al. He guts NIH (National Institute of Health) funding for programs that are designed to help wellness is diverse communities. He wants to get rid of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission). His minions in the OBM (Office of Budget Management) advertises the party-line of cutting spending to save taxpayer's money, but the greater effect is to end helping Black, Brown, Muslim, LGBTQ and immigrants get a fair shot.

Second he must transform the judiciary. No other branch of government has been used to right the wrongs of racism, sexism, homophobia than the courts. Think of all the landmark decisions over school desegregation, abortion, equal marriage, voting rights that have been made in the last 60 years. Bannon knows if left up to the congress or state legislatures, very few of those governing bodies would have desegregated schools or given gays the right to marriage on their own. In actually, many of those governing bodies would have doubled-down on the discrimination without outside intervention. She North Carolina's ongoing fight over HB2 as an example of this. This judicial transformation starts at the the top. Trump's pick for Supreme Court justice is not just a conservative, he's a conservative who believes in State's Rights and has ruled in many cases, while simultaneously writing concurring rulings stating that laws should be changed so that police officers/ police forces can not be sued amongst other widely-derided decision. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has a 70-page exhaustive record of his over 900-decisions and they have concluded that his should not be on the Supreme Court. Now keep in mind there are over 100 empty federal judge positions open right now. Trump and Bannon can dramatically transform the judicial system to tilt away from rulings like the ones that have found Texas and North Carolina guilty of race-based gerrymandering and voter intimidation; or that found Stop & Frisk, a raced-based NYPD street tactic that Trump wants to export nationwide, unconstitutional.

So think about the world Steve Bannon wants to create. A world where groups he deems unAmerican or even criminal—like Mexican immigrants, Muslims, members of the Queer community and by extension Black Americans—are treated poorly. Are oppressed by their state governments with no recourse to fight that bad treatment using regulation or the court system. A country where white, Christian, cis-gender men rule everything and women and people of color shut up and do as they are told. If that idea seems far off and dystopian don't delude yourself, the framework is already in place. The indolent Republicans in congress are ready to green-light Bannon's master vision by repealing ObamaCare, placing all of his judge picks on the bench and slashing the power of the federal government giving more power to the states. This all under the cloak and dagger of the most unqualified president we've ever elected.

Catastrophe is closing that you think.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I fixed Trump's cabinet

After a grueling election, the country needs some healing. It doesn't seem like our president-elect is up to the task, what with his less-than-steallar/ less-than-diverse picks. So, I decided to help him. I fixed his cabinet. It's not that I think Black women should be running the country, it's just that all these women are highly-qualified and they happen to be Black. Oh, and I do think Black women should be running the country.

Cabinet of the United States of America

Oprah Winfrey
Secretary of State
Chairwoman, CEO & CCO, Oprah Winfrey Network

Ursula M. Burns
Secretary of Treasury
Chairman & CEO, Xerox Corp. 

Debra L. Lee
Secretary of Defense
Chairman & CEO, BET Networks

Loretta Lynch
Attorney General

Terri Sewell
Secretary of Interior
US Representative, Alabama 7th District

Alma Adams
Secretary of Agriculture
US Representative, North Carolina 12th District

Lori Dickenson Fouché
Secretary of Commerce
CEO, Prudential Group Insurance

Rosalind G. Brewer
Secretary of Labor
President &  CEO, Sam's Club

Coretha M. Rushing
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Chief Human Resource Officer, Equifax Inc.

 Margaret Simms, Ph.D.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Leading expert in public policy and low-income housing

Thasunda Brown Duckett
Secretary of Transportation
CEO, Chase Auto Finance Corp/ JPMorganChase

Shirley Ann Jackson
Secretary of Energy
President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and leading scientist

Ruth J. Simmons
Secretary of Education
Retired President of Brown University

Sheila Johnson
Secretary of Homeland Security
CEO Salamander Hotel and Resorts

Laverne Council
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Undersecretary of IT, Veterans Affairs

Cabinet Level Staff

Suzanne Shank
White House Chief of Staff
Founder, President & CEO,  Siebert Bradford Shank & Co.

Myrtle Jones
Director of the Office of Management and Budget
SVP & head of tax division, Haliburton

Dr. Wanda A. Austin 
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
President & CEO, The Aerospace Corp.

Marion K. Gross
Trade Representative
SVP, Worldwide Sustainability, McDonald's Corp.

Angela McGlowan
Ambassador to the United Nations
CEO, Political Strategy Group, FOX News analyst

Lisa D. Cook
Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors
Leading economist in macroeconomics, development economics, international strategy and economic history.

Janice Bryant Howroyd 
Administrator of the Small Business Administration
CEO, A*1 Personnel Services 

Barbara Arnwine
Nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States

Friday, December 2, 2016

Baldwin in the age of idiocy

I am a writer. I am a student of literature. Criticism. Essay. Beautiful words stitched together for the enlightenment and enjoyment of the soul. Shakespeare. Mankiewcz. Morrison. Gore. Naylor. Massey. Wolcott. Mamet. Parker. Kafka. Parks. Adichie. Last names that don't need first names because if you know them you know their light and their power. These are the people I read. And love. And envy. And adulate. I try to mingle my voice with theirs to little success. But I try.

"The inky blackness of the subway tunnel whooshed by the windows. The expression on the  masses of people's faces were of passive exasperation. Their collective nonchalance did not soothe Aldrea Highline's apprehension. "
It took two weeks to write those three sentences for my first novel "Solstice". Not because I was lazy but because I wanted them to carry a specific image. A perfect image. To convey my exact thoughts. That's how important words and information are to me. Unfortunately words no longer matter.

We have reached a point of complete lunacy. Where anarchic monsters have taken over our airways and radiowaves and books. These feral creatures seek out and root away fact. They devour it and regurgitate bullshit leaving a fecal trail of disinformation all over the place. A few nights ago Trevor Noah, the young political comedian, hosting The Daily Show interviewed conservative firebrand, Tomi Lahren. It was like watching Dick Cavett wrestle a pig.

Discourse and wit have been replaced with yelling and obstinance. Ms. Lahren just flexed her considerably loud, obnoxious opinion and the right-wing media hailed it as victory. She wasn't/ isn't funny, clever, colorful or graceful. She's rapacious and her voice is as cloyingly annoying as Lesley Ann Warren's Norma in "Victor/ Victoria" with none of the character's charm.

Lahren and Noah are not equally yoked. He's good but he's no Baldwin. The bigger problem is she's no Buckley. When James Baldwin stepped onto the podium to thunderous applause at Cambridge Union in 1965 to debate William F. Buckley, his opening remarks were about perception. How the perception of America was different for Black People than it was for white. That between these bits of nuance lies the true heart of the problem. But nuance no longer seems to exist. We now live in a world of bluntness and primary colors. Of tribalism and nihilism. Where the din of name calling has erased the true rightenous of civic duty by letting people say "Well both sides are wrong."

No both sides are not wrong. It's not just impolite to create facts and false evelancies. Its not just hearsay its sedition to truth. We have seen this behavior metasize over the years. First with reality TV bleeding into our lives. Where bad behavior became tolerable. Then we saw it in our news rooms, where journalism was treated like entertainment. Where investigative reporters were fired and replaced with pretty, neutral, good-looking automatons that just paraphrased what this candidate said at this event without context. Then it invaded our politics. And that's where we are today. We no longer debate how to fix a problem. We have one side just screaming and insulting the other side and telling them racism nor climate change nor police brutality is a real thing. We have campaign managers saying to audiences without the slightest hint of a lie that there was no white supremacist involved in the presidential campaign she managed, all the while the person in question admitted in an interview to having ties with white supremacist.

So there you have it. The discussion is stymied before it can start. Not because Tomi Lahren can shut down Trevor Noah with facts and repartee. But because even at his best he can't penetrate her ignorance because it's embedded on a grandular level and we have started to reward the loudest, most obnoxious kid in the class instead of the smartest. Adolph Hitler once wrote "Der Sieger wird nie gefragt, ob er die Wahrheit gesagt habe."

"The victor will never be asked if he told the truth."